Episode #1: Survival Of The Fittest
Original Airdate: March 8th, 2008

Summer is over for Peter Parker and school's ready to start -- both literally (it's his junior year of high school), and in the real world of crime-fighting -- as Spider-Man faces his first real challenge (The Enforcers) and his first real super-villain (Vulture)

Written by Greg Weisman
Directed by Victor Cook
Music by Lolita Ritmanis, Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion
Animation By Dongwoo animation

Josh Keaton as Spider-Man/Peter Parker
Robert Englund as The Vulture/Adrian Toomes
Lacey Chabert as Gwen Stacy
Grey Delisle as Sally Avril
Irene Bedard as Jean DeWolf
Phil Lamarr as Rand Robertson
John Dimaggio as Flint Marko, Hammerhead
Clancy Brown as Alex O'Hirn
Peter Macnicol as Otto Octavius
Joshua Lebar as Flash Thompson
Deborah Strang as May Parker
James Arnold Taylor as Harry Osborn
Brian George as Aaron Warren
Kath Soucie as Martha Connors, Anna Watson

Review: Stu - I’d been eagerly anticipating a new Spider-Man cartoon since the last one ended in one of the cruelest ways possible way back in 2003. After a delightful announcement that the show was going direct to DVD and avoiding the puzzling broadcast standards and practises policies, it meant that Spider-Man might actually get free reign to tell gripping stories without soccer mums and demographic grabbing executives ruining the creative teams freedom. Alas, the show would later be announced as a Kids WB! property which greatly saddened my mood – I’ve seen Kids WB! butcher both X-Men: Evolution and The Batman with their mandates in the early seasons of each of their respective shows.

The news that Greg Wiseman would be producing the show seemed to be greeted with a roar of approval from all around me, but I admit to being strangely ignorant as to who he was – I had seen most of his The Batman work (with Strange Minds being the highlight for me) but most seemed to rave over his work on Gargoyles, which I have yet to see to this day (which is my loss, from the sounds of things). A lot of the hype press sounded like it would feature classic Spidey stuff, which is how a show should be promoted – there’s no sign of Sam Register calamity here (imagine saying that this show isn’t for the internet forum attending type in an online interview) but there was still lingers of demographic grabbing to be found. In the end, I decided not to get too hyped up and do what everyone should do – watch it and judge for myself.

Colour me impressed. The show has wisely realised that Spider-Man is an entertaining character who has something everyone can enjoy – kids like Superheroes in brightly coloured suits, fanboys like seeing their favourite comic book characters animated and the general audience like a good story – this one does all three, and does them really, really well. The writing is very sharp here – the character are all clearly defined with moments of getting to know them and none of them stick out as exceptionally two-dimensional or annoying (which is surprising, especially considering Harry Osborn is among them!) and there’s a shockingly brilliant amount of foreshadowing which will no doubt come into play by the end of the season (if it hasn’t already done so by the time you’ve read this). There’s some genuinely good humour here (with the best line about how The Amazing Spider-Man has been humiliating forced to sneaking around to reclaim his shoes) especially as Peter has proven to be worth a good laugh in and out of costume.

The visuals took some getting used to – I understand the need to simplify the designs but I was worried about them going in, they looked like Fisher Price toys who don’t know how to put their pants on properly. It took me a couple of minutes to get over it because they animate great. I don’t think the still images and model sheets do the show that much justice but I have little to no complaints about the visuals when I’m actually watching the show (except the pupils – those are damn weird!). The staging and directing was very good throughout – Kids WB won’t allow a Superman Vs Captain Marvel style smack down but considering the annoying restrictions that come from Saturday morning, I don’t really feel the need to complain.

I really liked the villains used here – I was a little surprised at the amount of villains they used in the pilot but most of them have just been used to set up bigger and better things. I am intrigued greatly by the use of The Big Man who old school fans will remember from the Lee/Dikto/Romita glory days. It’s good to see them starting out slowly with The Enforcers before Spidey moves onto bigger villains and The Big Man gives a plausible explanation as to why there are so many costumed supervillains running around. I especially liked that they cast Keith David as The Big Man too – his role seems to have been replaced by Kevin Michael Richardson, hopefully this is a temporary switch and Spawn himself will return in his next appearance. I hope it doesn’t turn out to be Foswell though – surprise me here please writers!

I liked Vulture too – especially his costume. It seems very much based on Terry Dodson’s supercool Marvel Knights costume (which Marvel replaced by his very next appearance, which makes you wonder whether they actually read their own comics!). Robert Englund did great work with ol’ bird brain and really sold his frustrations, especially when Norman flat out refused to give into his demands. We’re an episode in and I can already tell that Norman will become a truly magnificent bastard by the time this show is done with him.

So far, so very good. Let’s hope the rest of the season is this strong!


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